Whether you’re tired of work and wanting to escape to the beach, or searching for your own piece of paradise…
Sit back and enjoy the ride, as we take you on our Secret Samui Guide to this enchanting emerald island in Thailand.
1. What is the secret to ‘Koh-Samui’s name?
Although the coconut tree is often considered the symbol of Samui, the words ‘Koh-Samui’ are derived from the Chinese words “saboey”, which means “safe haven”, and “Koh”, the Thai word for “island”.
Sitting in the southern gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui has been safe from serious natural disasters, with more stable waters than islands on the West coast of Thailand, exposed the beautiful but more dangerous Andaman sea with Monsoons blowing in the from Indian Ocean.
Going back in history, Samui was discovered hundreds of years ago by Chinese and Malay sea traders, who were drawn to the island’s natural beauty, abundance of fresh fish and fruit, and many sheltered bays.
Since then Samui has come a long, long way…
It now features famous 5-star resorts and luxury properties with both celebrities and backpackers flocking from around the world to indulge in its intoxicating charms and hidden retreats.
*Top Tip: If you want to sound like a local, try pronouncing the name phonetically as it sounds: ‘Ko-sa-moo-ee’
2. Where is Koh Samui located?
The island of Koh-Samui lied sheltered in the Southern Gulf of Thailand, roughly 700 km south of Bangkok, and just an hour to reach by plane.
With an international airport and a mass of ferry connections, traveling to the island is easy. Bangkok Airways offers daily direct 1 hour flights to the island, with many options.
If you’re traveling on a budget, there are 4 low-cost airlines also flying from Bangkok to Surat Thani: (the nearest city on the mainland) These are: Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile and Lion Air.
Some of budget flights cheaper are than buses or trains from Bangkok to Koh Samui, however these flights are non-direct, with a 1 hour bus ride from Surat Thani to the pier and 1 & 1/2 hour ferry to the island. With good weather, this is an enjoyable way to arrive to Koh Samui.
Another popular option is the sleeper train from Bangkok to Samui. The upper bunks are for those of who enjoy their privacy and air-conditioning! Lower bunks are less expensive, less private but less cool. This is a slower but more scenic way to arrive to the island.
*Top Tip: If you love diving & snorkeling, try traveling from Bangkok to Chumphon, taking a speedboat to Koh Tao and finishing on Samui.
3. Which are the best areas to visit on Samui?
There are so many villages & towns on Samui it’s hard to know what to see! The secret to a successful Samui trip is, knowing where to stay.
Here is our top choice of areas to stay… (Clockwise around the island.)
Bophut & Fisherman’s Village:
Fisherman’s village was originally a traditional old Thai fishing village…
Recently however, it has reinvented itself as a hip & trendy hang-out, with popular new hotels, restaurants & night-markets on Mondays & Fridays, with a charming new shopping market at the end of the street.
This area is perfect for families or couples, who prefer a bit of peace and quiet. Although the sand may not be as soft as Chaweng beach, it makes up for it with its charming culture, old wooden houses, arts & crafts and clothes shops.
Bangrak & Big Buddha:
Next is Bangrak, with an array of fresh fish markets and ferry piers, and hourly boats taking holiday-makers to Koh Tao island for diving trips, and party-goers to Koh-Phagnan for the famous full-moon parties!
This area has also undergone a lot of changes, and is a popular place for expats, with many local pubs & bars. If you like a late night beer, game of pool, or more, this place is for you.
Around the corner is the Big Buddha, a quieter and more family focused area. Initially, this place was first famous for the local fisherman on the island, as it was the safest spot to shelter during storms.
Plai Laem & Choeng Mon:
Plai Laem is like a little hidden sanctuary on the island. (Referred to as ‘the golden triangle’ in real estate, sitting between 3 popular towns.)
It is more peaceful which many tourists prefer, and also favourite Koh Samui Property investment area, with high capital appreciation in land prices.
Around the corner is the famous Choeng Mon bay, more family focused, with the new water-park being built in the nearby jungle. This area has all you need for a fun-filled family trip!
Chaweng & Chaweng Noi:
Then we have Chaweng, which simply has so many things to see and do that it get’s hard to list them all.
With the softest sand, busiest bars, biggest clubs and the cheapest cocktail buckets this place has a lot going on! Some of the eminent hangouts of this main beach road are the Ark Bar and Green Mango.
This area has also undergone a recent make-over, with the huge Central Festival shopping center, and an eclectic mix of new shopping & dining options to suit all budgets.
Chaweng Noi bay by contrast, is an idyllic paradise around the corner…
Lamai & Hua Thanon:
For those who enjoy deeper swimming waters, with a wide-range of water-sports, beach bars & restaurants, Lamai is popular tourist choice.
Sitting in the South of Samui, it is more bohemian & laid-back than the North East, attracting families, couples, groups & backpackers, seeking a bit more peace and quiet compared to the central party areas.
A funny local landmark along the way is the famous ‘Hin Tai Hin Yai’ or ‘Grandfather & Grand Mother’ – giant, granite, rocks naturally shaped like huge female & male genitals.
Snaking around the corner there is the fishing village of Hua Thanon. A charming old village, with traditional wooden Thai homes, giving a rustic feel to the place and culture.
Thong Krut & Laem Set:
Then we have the tranquil Tong Krut and laid-back Laem Set bays with their lush green nature; the perfect place to de-stress on the island…
If you want to try some local southern fresh fish, try the tradional Thai restaurant ‘Gallapakkarang’ on the Tong Krut beach, with teak wooden interiors and a famous palm tree pointing horizontally to sea.
As you come to Laem Set, wind down your windows and breathe the fresh sea air blowing through jungle. From shooting ranges, to safaris, zoos & waterfalls, there is fun for all the family on this part of the island!
Lipa Noi & Nathorn:
The two perfect places to take rest and watch the sun go down with a tropical cocktail, fruit shake, or whatever tickles your fancy!
With deserted golden beaches, serene and peaceful views, Lipa Noi has a more intimate feel – perfect for romantic walks or sunset dips.
To complete your circle of the island, at the end of the day stop off for a sundowner the ‘Sunset restaurant’ on the corner of the Nathorn harbor road, you can see a spectacle of ferries & ships arriving.
This more industrial town ‘Nathorn’ was once the most popular and expensive land on Samui, until tourism arrived to the pristine of beaches of the Northeast of the island.
4. What is there to do on the island?
Almost every activity you can imagine awaits on this tiny island…
Take a day-trip diving off the coast of Koh-Tao or to the Ang Thong National Marine Park: the largest archipelago of over 80 islands.
After, relax with a romantic dinner above beautiful Chaweng Noi bay…
*Top Tip: For those seeking adventure, hire a jeep and drive to the waterfalls & attractions. You may get lost, but that’s half the fun!
5. What is the island weather like?
Koh-Samui weather is almost always beautiful. Bright blue skies and a cool ocean breeze is the norm on the island.
However remember it is a tiny tropical island, so be prepared for random outbursts of showers at anytime. The spontaneity of Samui life is one of it’s many charms.
For those of you who like it hot, April to June is the best time to BBQ yourself, but the ideal temperature to visit the island late December to the end of March for that perfect tropical island weather experience.
However, be warned that the Christmas/New Year period is especially popular, with many people booking often months in advance!
Also, don’t forget the different high & low tides in the seasons can mean a skinny or 100 meter long beach! For idyllic picture-postcode beaches, where you can safely sit on a peninsular of sand in 100 meters out at sea, check out the island’s beaches between June – August.
*Top Tip: It can rain any time on the island. If you see the palm treetops shaking at night, reach for your umbrella or run for shelter!
6. What are the building laws on Koh Samui?
One of the secrets to Samui’s success, compared to other islands, is a law that no building is permitted to be taller than a coconut tree!
(The regulation is 12 meters high.) This one of the simplest, most beautiful laws on Koh Samui and is there for environmental reasons…
As a result are there are no unsightly skyscrapers affecting the tree tops from the air, and the highest buildings are only four stories high, with many projects opting for a low-rise resort-style developments. An important addition to the various building laws on the island is the prevention of ALL further freehold condominiums being built.
*Top Tip: Always ask to see developers building permits & land titles. Buying ‘off-plan’ maybe cheaper, but is not without risk.
*The Final Tip:
With so many secrets to Samui it’s hard to end the story. The final secret is simply to close your computer and come see for yourself!